Editor’s note: Written by Ben Mandel and Cristiano Façanha, Ph.D. Mandel is Calstart’s Northeast Regional Director. Façanha is global director of green commercial vehicle accelerator Calstart’s Global Commercial Vehicle Drive to Zero program. This is one in a series of periodic guest columns by industry thought leaders.
Governors from 15 states and the District of Columbia agreed last week to collaboratively promote clean commercial vehicles, drive jobs in advanced vehicle production, and help power economic recovery by championing clean energy and transportation efforts.
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington as well as the Mayor of Washington, D.C. reached a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, committing to develop an action plan of strategies to build the market for zero-emission commercial vehicles. Working together and nationally, these leading-edge states can transform the U.S trucking sector. Their regions will reap the benefits of moving first to lead a growing global multi-billion dollar sector.
This agreement comes on the heels of California’s recent move to adopt the world’s most ambitious zero-emission trucks policy in the world, the Advanced Clean Trucks rule, or ACT. ACT calls on commercial truck and van manufacturers to begin selling zero-emission vehicles by 2024 in California. All new commercial trucks and vans sold in the state must be zero-emissions by 2045.
The Multi-State MOU represents an important opportunity for zero-emission commercial vehicle deployment to gain traction on a national scale. The signatory states will now identify measures that can firm up demand for zero-emission commercial vehicles. States with minimal adoption of zero-emission trucks can set in place foundations to lead in the clean trucks sector. They will work with a broad set of levers that include greater awareness and interest among fleets and financial incentives to improve the business case for cleaner technology. The states will develop programs to put charging infrastructure in place at depot sites and along freight corridors. Industry can only advance so much in the absence of clear policy signals. Establishing this agreement in many states can cement a more definitive industry-wide transformation toward zero-emission technology.
The agreement positions the Northeast as the next big market for zero-emission commercial vehicles as all but two governors north of Virginia signed the MOU. Northeast states have a strong foundation of leadership in this arena, but must take more decisive and coordinated actions to shape a material market for zero-emission trucks in particular. The region already features a leading clean commercial vehicle incentive program in New York State, a well-established cap-and-trade program for power sector generators, and is actively discussing a policy framework for a cap-and-invest program that would be specific to transportation sector emissions.
Some leaders in clean truck and bus manufacturing have taken note of the Northeast’s leadership and have physical locations in states like New York (e.g., Lion Electric’s Experience Center outside Albany, the Nova Bus plant in Plattsburgh, and BAE Systems’ large campus in Endicott) and New Jersey (home to Arrival’s initial U.S. location). Now that the Northeast has declared its intentions to set stronger, more harmonized clean truck policy signals, it can expect growing interest among manufacturers and investors throughout the region, similar to what California has seen.
The new Multi-State Medium- and Heavy-Duty Zero-Emission Vehicle MOU sends a signal to manufacturers and investors that these MOU states are the ones to watch when it comes to zero-emission vehicles. Manufacturers can more securely expand zero-emissions offerings and create new jobs. Investors know they are more likely to see a good return on their dollars when they move dollars to innovators in states that are working strategically and collaboratively to grow their clean truck fleets.
To further drive the success of this growing sector in across the nation, these leading states should build upon their current efforts by:
- Providing incentives in the form of point-of-sale discounts for purchasers on zero-emission commercial vehicles and infrastructure.
- Encouraging infrastructure preparedness by developing truck-inclusive “make-ready” utility investment programs so fleets don’t bear the entire cost of bringing sufficient power to charging sites;
- Working in coordination with sister agencies at all leading clean truck states to ensure sufficient infrastructure investments along freight corridors.
- Coordinating with local governments to develop zero-emission zones for delivery vehicles.
- Enacting sales targets along with fleet purchase requirements that mirror sales targets.
Commercial vehicle manufacturers in the U.S. and Canada are already investing heavily in expanding zero-emission truck, van, and bus offerings in the coming years. In 2019 there were 95 zero-emission commercial vehicle models available for purchase in the US and Canada—that number will more than double by 2023 to 195. Similar trends are being tracked in other leading global markets such as China and Europe.
Policies like ACT and those foreshadowed by the Multi-State MOU demonstrate the markets most ready to lead in the drive to zero. These actions tell manufacturers that they can go even farther and deliver the clean air and climate benefits as well as the investment and jobs that are so sorely needed right now.
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